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Kathy Barnette is neck and neck with Oz and McCormick in the Pa. Senate race, poll says

Barnette has run a tireless campaign on a shoestring budget. Despite Oz and McCormick spending more than $11 million apiece from their own pockets, neither has been able to run away with the race.

Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Kathy Barnette during a debate last month at Dickinson College in Carlisle.
Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Kathy Barnette during a debate last month at Dickinson College in Carlisle.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

Maybe money really can’t buy everything.

Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Kathy Barnette now appears to be running neck and neck with the two big-spending front-runners, Mehmet Oz and David McCormick, just days before the May 17 primary, according to a new poll.

Barnette, a conservative commentator who has run a tireless campaign on a shoestring budget, had the support of 23.2% of likely GOP voters in the survey released late Sunday by the Republican Trafalgar Group. That put her right alongside Oz (24.5%) and McCormick (21.6%). Factoring in a margin of error of 3 percentage points, the poll suggests the candidates are effectively tied.

The results are similar to a Trafalgar poll in April, adding to the evidence that Barnette has emerged as the likely alternative to her ultra-wealthy rivals Oz and McCormick. Despite each of them spending more than $11 million apiece from their own pockets, neither has been able to run away with the race.

Montgomery County developer Jeff Bartos was a distant fourth in the poll at 7.2%, while Carla Sands, the former ambassador to Denmark, had 6.5% support.

Oz, the celebrity surgeon known as “Dr. Oz,” and McCormick, an Army veteran and former hedge fund CEO, have blasted one another on the air for months, potentially dragging each other down and driving voters to seek an alternative.

Both men have also faced questions about their authenticity.

» READ MORE: Who is Kathy Barnette, the conservative commentator running for Senate?

Oz lived in New Jersey for decades before moving to Pennsylvania ahead of his Senate run (he went to medical and business school in Philadelphia and his wife’s family is from the suburbs). During his campaign, he has had to disavow numerous past statements breaking with conservative orthodoxy on issues like guns and abortion.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Oz, but at a rally Friday, some Trump supporters booed the candidate.

McCormick, meanwhile, has relentlessly tried to portray himself as an “America First” Republican in Trump’s mold, only for the former president to blast him as “the candidate of special interests and the globalists and the Washington establishment,” undercutting much of his message. He lived in Connecticut for years before moving back to Pennsylvania to launch his Senate campaign, though he grew up in Bloomsburg.

» READ MORE: Trump boosts Pa. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz — and declares rival David McCormick ‘not MAGA’

Barnette, with a personal story about rising from poverty after growing up on a pig farm in Alabama, has crisscrossed the state in her campaign, rising in the polls despite spending only about $1.6 million. She would be the first woman and the first Black person elected to the Senate from Pennsylvania.

She has effectively been campaigning in conservative circles for the last three years, including a failed run for a U.S. House seat in the Philadelphia suburbs in 2020. After she lost that race by almost 20 percentage points, she pursued a wide-ranging and baseless hunt for voter fraud in deeply Democratic Montgomery County, emerging as a leader in the state’s election denial movement.

Barnette has also closely linked her campaign to gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who has endorsed her and is leading polls in the GOP primary for governor, potentially boosting her standing.

A Trafalgar poll released Monday morning showed Mastriano atop the gubernatorial primary with 27.6% of the vote, compared to 17.6% for former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, 15.1% for former Delaware County Councilman Dave White, and 14.4% for former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain. That’s a larger lead for Mastriano than in some other recent surveys, though he and Barletta consistently top most polls.

The Senate poll surveyed 1,080 likely Republican voters from Friday to Sunday.